If you have a new baby or one on the way, here’s a big incentive to give your home a good spring cleaning: It’s healthier for everyone, especially your baby.
Consider: We spend 90 percent of our time inside where air pollutant levels can be 2 to 5 times higher than they are outside, according to the EPA. Your home could be filled with radon, mold spores, offgasses from secondhand smoke, household cleaning products and cooking and heating, making it potentially more polluted than even the most industrialized cities.
Kids are especially at risk for indoor air pollution because they’re still growing and developing and they breathe more air for their size compared to adults so they can be more exposed to potentially harmful pollutants. But regular house cleaning and monitoring your home’s environment can help.
Home Not-So-Sweet Home
Dust is another bad guy. It’s a potpourri of dead skin shed by people, fibers from carpets and upholstered furniture, and tracked-in soil and airborne particles. These particles could include lead, arsenic and other potentially harmful substances that migrate indoors from outside air and soil.
Babies, toddlers and preschoolers are especially vulnerable to dust because because they hang out on the floor and put their everything in their mouths, including their hands, toys and other objects. They also absorb harmful chemicals and environmental toxins through their skin faster than adults because their skin is a less protective barrier.
None of this is breaking news to Sophia Ruan Gushee, author of A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Our Toxic Exposures. Over a decade ago, when her first child was six weeks old, she started investigating toxic chemicals in household products and environmental toxins–by accident.
“I lived in Manhattan and had a very demanding job outside the home. I was unfamiliar with babies and how to take care of them,” she says. “So I started reading books by pediatricians and combing the web for information from reputable sites, such as the Mayo Clinic.”
It was during this extensive how-to-take-care-of-babies learning curve that Gushee came across the concept that toxic exposures could come from your home and the environment. “I went down a rabbit hole,” Gushee says. “Most of my friends were happily unaware. I wondered why I couldn’t be like them. Yet I couldn’t turn my back on what I was learning. I ended up feeling like I was supposed to do something about it.”
Fast forward five multitasking years, with two more children in tow. While trying to reduce her family’s unnecessary exposure to household chemicals, Gushee began compiling her research into a book and ended up writing a tome on environmental toxins, which summarizes the latest research.
You’ll see what I mean if you even just glance at the table of contents of A to Z of D-Toxing. Yet, it’s easy to read at a glance–and something you could easily hand off to the babysitter or your parents, when they’re watching the kids. It’s packed with facts and tips you can do to reduce your family’s chemical and environmental exposure. It’s all about making choices and small changes that can add up to make a big difference.
Spring Cleaning 101
How can you clean up your act to reduce your family’s unnecessary exposure to toxic chemicals? Here are just some of Gushee’s top house cleaning tips:
- Dust bunnies be gone! “Place a high priority on filtering the dust,” Gushee says. Some many industrial chemicals are in house dust, including lead and arsenic. She recommends dusting and vacuuming often, using an air purifier with HEPA air filters and replacing filters once a year, in the spring. The EPA agrees! Consider putting an air purifier in the nursery as well.
- Develop a clean track record. Toxic metals, coal tar and pesticide residue can cling to shoes and get tracked into the house, where it’s easy for cruising babies and toddlers to ingest it. To-do tactic: “Have a no-shoes policy,” Gushee says. If you’d rather leave your shoes on, put out a doormat at the front door and insist everyone use it, even when the weather is nice.
- Use family-friendly cleaners without harsh chemicals. Gushee favors making her own cleaning products from household ingredients, such as vinegar, castile soap and baking soda, to avoid harsh chemicals.
If you’d rather not be your own mixologist, go ahead and buy household cleaning products–with the EPA’s Safer Choice Label.Safer Choice is like the Energy Star label, but for chemicals/cleaning products. Products that meet U.S. EPA Safer Choice Product Standards get to put the label on their product.The EPA/Safer Choice reviews every ingredient going up the supply chain based on performance, packaging and ingredients.“Most manufacturers don’t make it through with their existing formulations,” says the EPA’s Clive Davies.Once a product meets Safer Choices’ strict criteria, however, the manufacturer signs an agreement that the product will continue to be formulated the healthier way. Companies are audited every three years, to keep them on their toes. The EPA knows that the average person takes just three to four seconds to select a product.
So they made the Safer Choice label easy to spot. Look for the label on more than 2,000 products, such as:
Green Works All Purpose Cleaner Spray
Baby Ecos Toy & Table CleanerGreenworks Compostable Cleaning WipesSeventh Generation Natural 4x Concentrated Laundry Liquid, Free & Clear
The Safer Choice Label is a trusted assurance from the U.S. EPA that products contain safer ingredients and have been reviewed for performance.
“These products must work,” Davies says.
Bonus: Products with the Safer Choice label aren’t necessarily any more expensive than regular cleaning products. They can improve indoor air quality by reducing chemicals and pick up the gunk your baby could ingest. Bottom line: “Choosing a safer cleaning product leads to a healthier home,” Davies says.
For a full product listing of Safer Choice products, visit the EPA.
Need even more spring cleaning incentive: It’s a workout!
According to a PLoS One study, which analyzed women (sorry guys), found that women in 2010 devoted 25 percent more time to screen-based media than “household management,” which includes washing the dishes, cooking, laundry and general housework than they did in 1965.
As a result, they burned an average of 265 fewer calories per day (1857 calories per week). Doing less housework “may have contributed to the increasing prevalence of obesity in women during the last five decades” the study concluded!
Spring Cleaning Giveaway!
Does your home suffer from indoor air pollution? Now, there’s an easy way to tell.
The Netatmo Healthy Home Coach is an indoor climate monitor with sensors that measure carbon dioxide (CO2), temperature, humidity and noise. It offers quick-fix tips if any of these indoor environmental indicators fall out of range. It connects via Bluetooth to your iPhone, iPad or iPad Touch (iOS 9) or later so you can monitor the health of your baby’s room through an app.
According to Netatmo, CO2 is one of the most reliable indications of indoor air quality. High CO2 happens when the room hasn’t been aired out for a few hours.
Indoor air quality is considered to be poor when the number of parts per million of carbon dioxide concentration reaches 1150.
How does your home measure up? Give the Healthy Home Coach a try! One reader will be randomly selected to win their very own Healthy Home Coach, valued at $99.99. To enter, sign up to receive Babyproductsmom via e-mail by Friday, March 17th at 5 PM ET. (Scroll down to find the sign up box by the bubbly circles on your phone or look to the right of your screen for the bubbly circles if you’re on your desktop computer.)
If you’ve already signed up for Babyproductsmom posts, you can enter this giveaway by sending me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), with “Healthy Home Coach” on the subject line.
On March 18th, I will notify the winner via e-mail. If the lucky winner doesn’t respond within 24 hours, I’ll randomly select a new winner.